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Festival Review and Photos: South By Southwest – Saturday & Sunday, March 17-18, 2012 – Austin, TX

After such a busy day on Friday I had a late start on Saturday. At to that the fact that the public transport and taxi services were in complete disarray due to it being St. Patrick’s Day on top of SXSW and it became an extremely late day. I almost gave up on even going, and in the end I only managed to see three bands on the final official day of SXSW, but those three bands were good enough to make the day a success after all.

Beach Fossils

I’ve been wanting to see Beach Fossils for a little while now, so I was delighted that I managed to make it down to ND in time for their set. The foursome, led by Dustin Payseur, were a lot more active than I had expected them to be. On record their jangle pop is somewhat relaxing, but in the live setting their guitar lines seem razor-edged, emphasized by the erratic movement of all of the standing members all over the stage. Spinning, jumping, wandering, Beach Fossils seemed wrapped in their beautiful noise, bumping into each other and just not caring. The crowd was highly entertained by all this extreme fidgeting, but none more active than the band. During the final song Payseur dropped his guitar and jumped into the crowd with the microphone to try to spur on more movement. Then, as the end of the song came he returned and instantly started packing up his things speedily, almost before the song had even ended. The band was gone in a flash, and in the cavernous darkness of the venue it was a strange blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of feeling, as they were gone in a flash.


Deerhoof have always been a band that I enjoy a lot of their records, but none enough to be inspired to go see them play at their own show, so the opportunity to see them in a club setting at a festival was one too good to pass up. The quartet set up in a line across the stage with singer Satomi Matsuzaki strangely placed off to the side and drummer Greg Saunier in the middle. It immediately became clear why this was the case as soon as Saunier started to play – the man is a force of nature. Even with a simplistic 4-piece kit setup he was one of the most impressive drummers I’ve ever seen. In fact all of the members were hugely enjoyable to watch, whether it was the dueling guitars of John Dietrich and Ed Rodriguez, or Matsuzki’s strange dance moves and jumping jacks, everywhere you looked there was something to make you smile. The high level of their musicianship cannot be understated either, whether they were playing something math rock-y, straightforward rock or getting the crowd moving with something a little punk rock, the band shifted through the gears seamlessly and were definitely the tightest band I saw at SXSW (thanks once again to Saunier). Now that I’ve experienced Deerhoof live I would absolutely go see them again any time.

Built To Spill

Built To Spill are road warriors. Without any album out to promote there’s really no reason for them to have played so many shows at SXSW, but for their love of playing. Unfortunately at this stage you have to say that they’re getting on a bit, but really the only part of their performance that was affected by this was Martsch’s voice, which sounded a little worn out by the amount of shows they’ve played this week. The performance that I managed to see was some way away from the main part of the festival and was a free event being put on by a local radio station. Therefore there were plenty of people in the audience who showed up probably without a clue about Built To Spill, and I’m sure they will have been impressed by the band’s roaring guitars and chugging rock. The highlights for fans will have been “Life’s A Dream” and the monstrous “Goin’ Against Your Mind.”

Urban Outfitters Showcase – Shot By Eric Groom

Choir of Young Believers

Eleanor Friedberger


Light Asylum

New Build

Peaking Lights

Sunday March 18

By Sunday all of the official shows were over and done with and Austin was more or less a ghost town. For those still looking though, there were shows to be found. I headed down to the Lomography store for a showcase being put on by Proxart Magazine for the opportunity to see Conveyor and Miracles of Modern Science again, as well as some other bands about whom I’d heard good things.


Having written about Conveyor twice already at this festival you’d think it’d be difficult to find more things to say, but each time you see this band you can’t help but be impressed by something. This time it struck me just how diverse their songs are. Even though the combination of instruments used in each is the same, they manage to be everything from relaxed indie, to avant-garde, to erratic neo-punk. Even though this was the end of a long week for them they didn’t look tired whatsoever, rather they looked confident as if they’ve hit their comfort zone performing live. With their album not too far down the pipeline and hopefully several tours, this couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Stone Foxes

The Stone Foxes’ brand of blues rock Is not really my wheelhouse generally, but when you see a band put on a performance this powerful it’s impossible not to get swept up in it. The San Francisco four-piece took no time in getting loud and pretty much throughout their set it seemed as though the whole store was shaking with the power of their combined playing. They took the problem of a broken microphone-stand with good humour, which only seemed to fuel their passion for playing. The members switched instruments constantly and all of them took a turn at singing – something you don’t see too often. The highlight of the set for me (aside from the pure happiness with which they played that was constant throughout) was when it was drummer Shannon Koehler’s turn to come forward and sing; not only were his growling vocals a thrill, but his bluesy harmonica playing was gritty in the best way possible. No matter what kind of music you’re into, The Stone Foxes are a band not to be missed if you have the opportunity.

Unicycle Loves You

I’ve been enjoying Unicycle Loves You’s new album Failure for a little while now, so I was glad to catch them, having missed the opportunity to do so at any of their previous shows in the week. It seemed as though singer Jim Carroll had had enough of playing this week as he acted out quite strangely on a few occasions in the set, but this only made his performance more interesting. The front man led the band frenetically through the erratic stops and starts of their music, while bassist Nicole Vitale and drummer J. T. Baker held the performance together. The Lomography store probably wasn’t the ideal location in which to experience Unicycle Loves You (Carroll’s decision to wear sunglasses throughout suggested that perhaps it was a little too bright and/or early for him), but the band put on a good show nonetheless.

Miracles of Modern Science

Miracles of Modern Science’s set at the We Listen For You showcase on Friday had been one of my highlights of the week, so I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to see them again. And as happy as I was about seeing them, the guys seemed even happier just to be playing, as it seems they always are. Their smiles are as infectious as their quirky indie-pop tunes and although I’m not sure anyone in the store quite knew what was coming when they saw the band with their odd collection of instruments setting up, but they were quickly onboard once the first chorus of “Luminol” kicked in. They played the same set of songs as they had done on the previous occasion (which I was completely fine with, since they’re damn fine songs), but with one addition: the secret track from their album Dog Year. For those who haven’t heard the song, it’s a rather strange story which entails all members to put on ludicrous voices and go through pantomime-like verses. Needless to say, it was hilarious, and once again Miracles of Modern Science were the toast of the show.

Cains & Abels

Cains & Abels were the only band that I saw that I had not previously heard of, and having now seen them perform I’m surprised by that. The trio’s brand of straightforward rock may not be the kind to stand out in a crowd, but it is certainly more than good enough to be getting attention by some areas of the blogosphere. Perhaps they will when they release their new album My Life Is Easy next week. Playing several songs from it, different songs managed to remind me of a host of different bands including Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth and Lower Dens. If you’re a fan of any of these bands, then Cains & Abels might be something you should spend time investigating.

[SXSW Tuesday] [SXSW Wednesday] [SXSW Thursday] [SXSW Friday] [SXSW Saturday/Sunday]


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